January 14, 2015. Technical Author: David Fearne

Top ten technologies, trends and concepts for 2015

First of all a disclaimer. These are not new technologies, more tech that has reached a certain level of maturity to become relevant to the channel. Look out for these in 2015 as they will have an impact in the technology landscape.

 

Technology – PaaS

Platform as a Service is in essence simply the runtime environment for code. The runtime is the application on a server that takes code that a developer writes, be that JAVA, PHP or C# to name very few, and translates that into machine instructions, allowing developers to concentrate on writing code and nothing else. The infrastructure, the network the operating system and the runtime are all fully maintained, secured and managed by the PaaS provider.  This sounds great, but the barrier to entry has always been that PaaS is the domain of the developer as PaaS is designed to take custom code and run it; all the frills and fancy bits need to be built by the application developer. You can’t pick up Microsoft Exchange and run it in this way as it needs to talk to the operating system.

So what has changed to make me think that this year is the year of the developer? Well the dark art of development is no longer. Development is becoming commoditized. What do I mean by this? Well, go to most recruitment agencies and you can get a developer starting the next week on a rolling 1 month contract for circa £10k. Now this isn’t cheap, and without strong project management you will be posting your money down the drain. However, do it properly and you could have a custom application based on open standards, so easy to maintain, running on PaaS – with no servers to worry about supporting. This will be the enabler to PaaS that takes it from cool tech to used tech.

With offerings from Google, Amazon, IBM, Redhat and Microsoft it’s being taken seriously and workloads running companies ranging from Finance and Banking, to Retail and Real Estate with names like JP Morgan Chase, Barclays and Diebold (they make ATM’s) running production critical workloads.

 

Technology – APIs

APIs will be the default element of any application or platform worth considering in 2015. APIs  give an IT department a programmatic interface, which allows them to integrate their existing services and applications  to new services. In essence, they expose an amount of the functionality that can be controlled from a remote location. There are two main use cases for APIs:

Integration of third party services

The web is becoming more integrated, and the idea of using common services rather than owning, managing, and maintaining ‘on-premise’, is very attractive.

For example, you may need to send thousands of emails for marketing campaigns. Having an email service that has an API that sends emails means you don’t have to maintain an email system for this purpose. More than anything maintain the privilege of sending thousands of mails without being blacklisted by your ISP… You simple press a button from your marketing system and everything just works. Sendgrid.com is a good example of exactly this.

System to system integration

The ability to federate data between systems has huge business benefits. Accessing the data stored in one system to complement or fuel the results of another without any duplication of work or data is a massive benefit. Let’s take the email example above as an example:  you have a customer record system holding sales data from your customer base. You want to run an email campaign based on what’s been sold. If you integrated the two systems using APIs, the marketing system can query the sales system automatically to extract the exact data required. This saves hours of laborious copy and paste to get the data into the marketing system or creating a new database that replicates the data for this single purpose.

 

Technology – Docker

Docker is an open platform for development to production consistency. Build, ship and run distributed applications without changing code operating systems from laptop to mainframe. The system consists of – the Docker Engine, a portable, lightweight runtime and packaging tool; and Docker Hub, a cloud service for sharing applications and automating workflows. As a result IT can ship faster and run the same app, unchanged, on laptops, data center VMs and any cloud.

Docker.  Is nothing new? Linux containerisation has been around since 2008 but Docker wrapped simplicity and tooling around it to improve adoption. Then it succeeded in getting the open source community behind it, with names like Google and IBM contributing to its development and tool sets to attract customers like eBay, Yelp, Spotify and Rackspace.

 

Trend – Commodity BI Gartner describes as Advanced, Pervasive and Invisible Analytics Advanced


Pervasive and Invisible Analytics, as Gartner calls it. I say Commodity Analytics and I stand by this; not cheapening the hyper complex and fine work done by the software and data scientists. If anything they have done such a good job of unlocking and demonstrating the value inside everyone’s data and now we all want a piece of it; whether I want to know were I stand for profile views inside my LinkedIn network or what might be the next big technology trend based on a million value sales report from 2014. Analytics, in the broadest sense of the word, is more and more a part of our lives.

I was reminded to what level only the other day when I opened my phone and checked the weather for London and was presented with a simple icon representing that it was going to be dismal. However, upon thinking about what that symbol represents from an analytics perspective, I soon cheered up. The crunching of 1000s of sensors, past and present weather data for this time of year, plus satellite and radar inputs all on one of the world’s most powerful computers… I then checked the route I was planning on taking, once again not great, but this was based on real-time traffic information from speed sensors along a stretch of 250 miles of the UK, giving me a near minute perfect estimation of my journey. I then got out of bed with a renewed vigour.

All this proves to demonstrate that analytics, is becoming truly commoditized, no longer the preserve of “only” the enterprise boardroom, this technology is now feeding everyone all the time to help them make better micro decisions as well as the big ones. Do I take a coat or not? Do I go on the M1 or the A1? This all helps to make Analytics a bigger slice of the IT sphere and whatever we thought we knew about the analytics market in 2014 will be child’s play compared with 2015.

 

Trend – Computing Everywhere

Once the saying used to be, “That calculator has more power than it took to send men to the moon.” Now the saying is, “That cheap relatively low end smart device has more power than my top of the range laptop 2 years ago…”  Computing power is everywhere and the proliferation of high powered mobile computing has helped to give application developers much more freedom when developing mobile apps than ever before. Dual core chips have become commonplace along with upwards of 2GB RAM and even 128GB flash disk’s in phones. What does this mean for the IT industry? Simple, mobile computing and mobile as the primary business tool is now the reality, if you don’t have a dedicated mobile app to mirror / complement your, on – premise or cloud delivered service, you will be left behind. The only thing that’s letting these devices down (more than battery life) is the mobile networks they now rely upon. They are not fast enough; don’t have enough through-put or enough coverage. But I am not one for just complaining; this is where the opportunity lies, building mobile apps that give the feeling of real-time whilst using what little bandwidth they have while relying on the local computing power and storage to cache and process information which is bound for the cloud can be the intermediary step.

 

Trend – Commoditisation of development as infrastructure skills become obsolete, the IT department is evolving into a development house

Development isn’t the ‘dark art’ it used to be, with the UK government stating that coding classes will start at 4 years old from 2015; the only way is ‘up’ for the quantity and quality of developers in the UK’s future. In the here and now, and the next year specifically, we can however expect to see development becoming much more common place in the SME. A good next question is what will they do? As supply chains become more complex and time-to-productivity becomes more and more important, developers can help organizations to gain a competitive edge by developing systems that allow them to: react quicker; deliver sooner; and, be better informed than their competition. How do they achieve this? Well when you are starting from a blank sheet of paper the world really is your oyster. The best thing is that in most cases an organization gains this competitiveness for less than buying the equivalent off-the-shelf product let alone the lower costs of maintaining the software. Don’t get me wrong it isn’t as easy as I have just made it sound. The development function in an organization requires an eco system of people. Strong project management is critical, developer operations (DevOps) personnel, but done properly the ROI of this model can be the difference between a company being relevant in 2016 or not.

 

Concept – Hybrid Cloud

Cloud computing worth $121bn. Hybrid Cloud will be worth $1.85tr by 2017 – accounting for 50% OF ALL IT SPEND according to Gartner.

Hybrid Cloud, love the name or hate it, is here and it’s going to be the big cloud enabler of 2015. As CIOs look for the way make cloud (and I mean “public” cloud) a part of their architectures, hybrid is going to be that way. Hybrid Cloud will enable cloud bursting for compute and storage and with some associated infrastructure or, more precisely Software Defined Infrastructure (SDI), to smooth the network. Shared systems and security governance will allow this to be achieved using simply a few clicks. However, a few things will need to be overcome, the first one and the biggest being cost! One of the contributors to confusion in the cloud has been the perception that it’s fundamentally cheaper than on-premise. This can be true but rarely, and as a matter of fact it can often have initially higher costs of implementation.

To really take advantage of the cloud you should take the time to re-engineer your applications architecture. This sounds scary but isn’t. Secondly, the disservice some of the operating system migration tool vendors have done to make enterprises think that they can just lift and shift their operating systems driver, apps, security and all into the cloud. The very thought sends shivers down my spine!! When moving to the cloud the first thing I tell anyone is.. “The cloud ISN’T a one size fit all solution”. The first thing to do is identify what is cloud ready and what isn’t. This will help you to start to realise the true benefits and drawbacks of the cloud. Understand what the cloud can offer your applications (or even single elements of your applications), which ones should be in the cloud and which ones shouldn’t, and then architect for this. Once you do this, hybrid cloud becomes your gateway to the best service delivery with a highly resilient infrastructure; near unlimited scale (dependent on provider)  and spin up spin down commercial flexibility.

 

Concept – Cloud / client architecture

Client / Server you’re so 1990s…

Client / cloud architecture is becoming more and more prevalent in the modern world of application delivery. Look at salesforce.com, Dropbox, office365 to name but a few. I am aware they have servers in the back end, but the point is that enterprises are no longer connecting to a dedicated server, IP address, or even in most cases, URL. It’s shared on a massive scale and delivers to the mobile device on demand anywhere any time.

 

Concept – SDE Software Defined Everything

Software defined datacentres seemed to come of age last year, by this I mean in the world of the SME. It’s the typical story of, pioneered due to a specialist need of some Internet scale companies, namely NASA and Rackspace. Then open sourced, so rapidly developed to far beyond their capabilities, then finally adopted by the MSP world at large. Over the last few years, all the large vendors have had to develop a play of some description. The project as a whole has matured dramatically, services companies like Mirantis have sprung up to provide professional services around the technology. All of this helps to de-risk and make adoption easy and straight forward for the end customers that are going to turn it from top of the CIO agenda to de facto in the SME datacentre.

 

Concept – Risk based security and self-protection

To maintain a safe, open and secure cyberspace we must look to new methods that will keep us ahead of the threats in 2015. We have already seen cyber weapons developed which derailed Iran’s nuclear program by 2 years and viruses that are so well written, even the most advance security companies can’t remove them. So what is 2015 going to look like?

The truth is we won’t know until it attacks us as this is sadly the nature of the beast, but we can ‘best prepare’ for the future.

Perimeter security is no longer enough; Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) do a good job at being abstracted from the application but lack context-awareness. What is required for the ever-dangerous cyber world we live in is a security approach that automatically links context-aware security to abstract security, giving the best possible hope for the user. These systems represent self-protecting applications, operating systems that are paranoid of their applications and then inline dynamic perimeter security that are just plain schizophrenic. All of this while improving the user experience and giving more access and flexibility to increase productivity. No small task…

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